4 Tips For Celebrating July 4th With Heart-Healthy Fun

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The 4th of July is one of those feel-good holidays. Fireworks, barbecues, spending the day with family—it’s something everyone looks forward to. 

As always, I never want heart kids to feel left out, or like they can’t take part in holiday festivities. There isn’t much about Independence Day that’s particularly risky for heart kids. However, this holiday often involves spending extra time outdoors and on summer activities. That might bring a few extra hazards to beware of.

Before the 4th rolls around, I want to give some reminders about special precautions that heart kiddos need to take, especially when they will be out and about in the heat for longer than usual.

Here are a few reminders about heart-healthy activities, food, and the answer to your big question—can heart kids go to see fireworks?

Splish Splash, What A Great Bash

Did the neighbors invite you over for a pool party? Swimming is great for heart kids. It gives them exercise, and it’s a proven heart-healthy activity. According to the Obesity Action Coalition, swimming lowers resting heart rate, blood pressure, and bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL).

Just remember that if your kiddo gets tired and fatigued, it’s time to get out of the pool for a bit. Don’t let her back in until you’re confident that she’s fully rested and energized. Talk to her physician for specific guidance on this.

And please, do not forget sunscreen, especially if your kid has had a transplant. A July 2011 study in the American Journal of Transplantation found that people with heart transplants have an increased risk of developing skin cancer. Sunscreen can protect kids from many of the sun’s harmful rays.

Smokin’ Hot Backyard Barbecues

Hot dogs, cheeseburgers, potato chips—they’re all foods that scream “barbecue,” but they’re also not very heart-healthy. If your heart kid is on a very strict diet, check out the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommended barbecue alternatives. But if she’s allowed to have those foods once in awhile, there’s no better time for a treat than the 4th.

heart healthy activities

If you’re hosting a barbecue, consider making it a dinner rather than a lunch. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with heart disease have a higher risk of heat-related illness—and the AHA says that the sun is strongest from about noon to 3 p.m.

Fireworks: Pretty, And Best Seen From A Distance

Fireworks are the hallmark Independence Day activity, and I see no reason why heart kiddos shouldn’t get to join in on the fun.

However, I do have this recommendation: View fireworks from a distance. The Washington State Department of Ecology found that fireworks produce fine particles that raise the risk of heart and lung problems, and people with heart or lung conditions have a greater risk of health effects.

Again, that doesn’t mean don’t go see fireworks! But since you want to avoid areas with a lot of smoke, you might want to go out to a fireworks show rather than setting them off in your own backyard.

Red, White, And Play

I’m always advocating for heart kids to stay active, since exercise helps them build strong muscles and stay in shape.

The 4th of July is a great time to keep kids active with a game of Frisbee or badminton in the backyard. Those activities generally won’t cause problems, but remember to follow any activity restrictions you’ve received from your child’s physician.

Also, it’s important to make sure your heart kiddo warms up before and cools down after physical activity, since the American Heart Association says that warming up and cooling down puts less stress on the heart. And of course, keep your kid hydrated with plenty of water.

What outdoor activities are you planning with your heart kid for the 4th of July? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Barb Roessner

Hi, I'm Barb, and I'm a Physician Assistant and coordinator of the Heart Failure and Transplant Program at Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. I work with patients and families at every step of the journey, from diagnosing their child's heart condition to my favorite part—calling them to say "We have a heart."

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